21 October, 2007

Interview with my Flickr friend Bonnie Shulman

1. How did you first get interested in photography? And are you self taught?

When I was 13 years old I asked my father for my first camera. I still have it, a Canon AE-1 SLR, and I have been taking pictures ever since, I've owned dozens of cameras. I studied journalism at university, and I took many photos for the school newspaper, developing them in the darkroom as well. No, in those days I had no formal training. My pictures always made the front page of the school newspaper. I remember that the first rule I ever practiced was, "zoom with your feet". I have always liked to go for the close-up shot, what a former boss of mine calls the "money shot". One of my colleagues quit journalism school to become a photojournalist. I stayed in school and got my degree, but in every job I have had, I have had to either art direct or take photos. Two years ago I started studying digital imaging at a college and now I take courses all the time, I have a lighting course coming up in November in a photography studio and I belong to two photography clubs in Toronto that offer clinics and lectures. I also subscribe to photography magazines and follow tutorials on flickr.

2. Do you have a favourite walk around lens? If so, what is it?

Oh yes, my most precious lens is the Canon EF 28-105 mm, with macro capabilities. It can do everything, it's a little gem of a lens, and very affordable. I did my research and chose this lens very specifically and I just love it.

3. What equipment and software do you use?

I use Photoshop CS2 on a PC.

4. Which one item of equipment is the most important for you?

My car. I find to get great nature pictures and keep being innovative it helps to travel around, and with all this equipment it helps to have a car. I don't go very far, sometimes, I just travel to the next block, but after an hour of taking pictures in the outdoors, in bushes and climbing in tall grass, I'm very fatigued, it's good to get in the car and go have a coffee and just relax before I start working on the photos. Of course I also take pictures indoors, and for that purpose natural light coming in through my window is the most important equipment!

5. How do you decide on locations and subjects?

I think about what I'm going to shoot throughout the week, as I like to do most of my shooting on the weekends. The City of Toronto has a great website listing all the parks, where they are, what their features are, so I use the Internet to figure out where I'm going to shoot. Once, though, I decided to go to the Toronto Zoo but it started raining and I turned back to go home, and just by accident, or maybe fate, I found a park I never knew existed, and that is where I took one of my most favourite shots!

6. What are your favorite subjects to photograph?

I like to photograph the things that give people joy to look at. For me, I find people take great pleasure in nature shots and so that is what I do, but I try to add a little twist, a little signature touch of Bonnie to the shot. I also love to photograph my CAKES! Oh my goodness do I love to photograph food. Again, it's what gives people joy. I photograph my cat Leo because he has so many fans on flickr. Me, I have enough photos of Leo, but he is in demand from the many cat lovers on flickr, so he gets his picture taken, and he doesn't like it at all! Poor little guy, but what can he do, he's a star and I'm his paparazzi.

7. What continues to inspire you as a photographic artist?

New challenges - I don't have a travel budget to go to exotic places, I don't have the fancy professional lenses, I don't have a studio - so I have what I have, and the question for me each day is: with what I have, what can I shoot that will give people joy? I don't always have an answer! And that worries me sometimes. And then - voila - suddenly the answer comes, like a miracle, and I feel blessed.

8. What is the one thing that you have not captured on camera you feel you need to express?

I love to shoot rock bands in action but I don't have a media pass to bring my DSLR into venues. I would love to shoot a great band on stage with a great camera and a great lens. I would like to photograph my rock and roll heroes in action. That would give me a lot of satisfaction and pleasure. I did once sneak a DSLR into a venue, but I didn't have quite the right lens. But I learned from that.

9. What other artists have influenced your work?

There are so many talented people on flickr who have influenced me, it's crazy! They know who they are, because I comment on them all the time - I see something I love and I just have to write something to the artist, even if it's just "wow"! I am influenced by my contacts with formal training and by those who have no formal training. Basically I think I have the best contacts on flickr!

If I had to pick one person, the person who has influenced me the most is my good and dear friend from Spain, Ignacio Abalos, www.flickr.com/photos/ihnasio/, whose every photograph fills me with joy. He taught me to see the beauty in everything, even in rustic old walls, which he photographs to perfection, and he is also a joy to have as a friend. I appreciate his work and his friendship so much.

But I would like to mention two other artists who never cease to entertain me with their brilliance, one is David Michaels ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidsangle/) and the other is Jeff ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/iamnotanumber8885/). I'll never be able to do what these two guys do, their styles are totally different than mine, but I appreciate their perspective and ingenuity, and how they take risks.

10. What other talents do you possess besides photography? And is there another area of talent you would like to explore?

Cakes. I do cakes. And for a living I am a speechwriter. So let's say I do words too. I own a piano and would like to learn how to play it. I would also like to learn how to play guitar, even though I tried once, I have a picture of my Fender Stratocaster on my stream. But I gave up too easily. I wanted to be perfect right away and I got frustrated.

11. Have you met other flick rites in person, and how was the experience?

One of my dearest friends I met through flickr, Gabi, http://www.flickr.com/photos/gabifoto/ and I've also met the wonderful Marg, http://www.flickr.com/people/makeupanid/ , who taught me more about birds than anyone! I also met another dear friend, Richard, http://www.flickr.com/photos/18595430@N00/ , who moved to Toronto this year, which was such a wonderful surprise. There are so many brilliant flickr photographers in Toronto, I'd eventually like to meet them all.

12. Any words of advice for those who would like to dig deeper into photography?

I would absolutely advise anyone to invest in a course. It will improve your photography to no end! I would say this is especially true if you just bought a DSLR. Take a course and really learn how to use it, understand all the functions, and then you can start to play with it and learn on your own, but you'll have the basic knowledge and this is essential.

13. Of all the photos you've taken, what is your favorite and why?

My favourite photo isn't my best, it isn't even very good, but when Rolling Stone Online asked me to use it, suddenly it became my favourite!!! It's a picture of the man of the moment in England, a tremendously famous rock star named Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, playing with a supporting band called "We Are Scientists" at the Monkeys' show in Toronto.

14. If you could change anything on flickr, what would it be?

I hate Explore. Hate it. Hate what it does to people, hate how it makes them think of photography. I hate Explore. Explore is not a judgement on one's photography but so many people think of it that way. No, I do not like the idea of ranking pictures 1 through 500. As if there possibly could be a number one. When there are millions of flickr members with millions of opinions!

These are the photos that Bonnie want to show us in this interview:

1) A log and two cormorants

2) A cup of flower

3) Sunday at Bonnie's bakery

Thanks to Bonnie for her kind reply and for being a true "flag" of Canada in the Flickrdom,
a very supportive and warm Flickr pal.

check it out at: http://www.flickr.com/people/bonnieshulman/

Angela Lobefaro aka angie_real


Marg said...

What a wonderful interview with my friend Bonnie!

And what a good idea I think I will take a course to use that DSLR when I finally get it :D

Anonymous said...

Bonnie: you rock! I am so glad to learn more about a Flickr person I admire - Thanks Angie, thanks Bonnie for being so open - even though I have collected some good Explores over the last few months, I agree with your statement btw (it's all a game, what matters is this!)

bethechange21 said...

Great interview. So genuine. Love the photo "Cup of flower" it made me smile. Thanks!

bethechange21 said...

Great interview! So genuine and down to earth. Great advice and I love the photo "Cup of Flower", it made me smile. Thanks.

Debbie said...

Wow, awesome interview! I love Bonnie's photos, and I learn a lot from her!

KarenHarveyCox said...

What a wonderful interview, and you selected one of my favorite people on flickr to interview. Bonnie is warm and wonderful and I was always so curious about her...your interview gave us great insight into this glorious lady. When I see Bonnie's face on my photostream I always smile. Her work is magnificent and having spent five years in Toronto she takes me back to favorite places through her photography. Thanks for doing this interview. Karen

Kiki Vol-au-Vent said...

Thank You for this lovely interview. I just LOVE what Bonnie does with her cameras and I even remember HOW I got to know her.... not for her pixies but for her wonderful comments on others' photos!!!
Now she is one of my best loved photographers and I smile a lot when I do my 'Bonnies'... Thank You again. Have a good day!!!! Kiki (Vol-au-Vent)

Jackal said...

A wonderful insight. Superb photographs.

Juan Miguel said...

Thanks for the interview.
Bonnie i a lovely and great photographer.
Juan Miguel.

Paul said...

Wow , I had no idea how awesome she was at this stuff I am amazed , what a gift.